Starvation and Malnutrition in Jharkhand

jharkhand girl dies of
Santoshi Kumari

Exactly a year ago, 11-year-old Santoshi Kumari of Simdega died of starvation while asking her mother for rice. Her family’s ration card was cancelled for not being linked to Aadhaar. In the last one year, at least 15 people have died due to hunger. Of these, 6 were Adivasis, 4 Dalits, and 5 of backward castes. All these deaths happened due to the denial of security pensions or rations from the PDS.

Of these, 5 families did not even have a ration card and 5 families faced sustained issues with Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA), leading to denial of rations. In addition, 6 people were denied their social security pensions. In 10 cases, Aadhaar-related issues played a role in the hunger deaths.

The issue of starvation and malnutrition is not restricted to only these families. A fair share of Jharkhand’s population does not get sufficient nutrition. Close to 40% of under-5 children are malnourished.

The Jharkhand government has not initiated any action to stop the persistent starvation deaths in the state. Deleted ration cards have not been reinstated, Aadhaar-based biometric authentication system has not been discontinued, left out families have not been provided ration cards and Aadhaar continues to remain mandatory for welfare schemes.

To stop to starvation deaths in Jharkhand, the Right to Food Campaign demands the following:

  • Aadhaar should not be mandatory for any welfare scheme and Aadhaar-based biometric authentication should be discontinued.
  • The list of families whose ration cards were cancelled and those whose names were struck of pension lists for not linking their Aadhaar, should be made public immediately and also re-start their rations and pensions with immediate effect.
  • The Public Distribution System should be made universal in rural areas, and PVTG families and single women should be given Antyodaya cards.
  • Private ration dealers should be removed immediately and replaced with Gram Panchayat/Women’s organizations.
  • To improve the situation of nutrition in the state, pulses and edible oil should be made available at affordable rates in the Public Distribution System.
  • The maternity benefit entitlement should be increased from Rs. 5000 (under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana) to Rs. 6000 as mandated in the National Food Security Act. It should also not be restricted only to the first child.
  • All pregnant and lactating women should be given 5 eggs per week.
  • All children should be given 5 eggs per week in Anganwadis and Mid Day meals.
  • Anganwadis should be established in all hamlets of the state. Education system in Anganwadis to be strengthened. And children to be served hot-cooked food instead of ready-to-eat food.
  • All elderly, widow, and disabled persons in the state should be given social security pension of at least Rs. 2000/month on time.
  • Jharkhand’s MGNREGA wage rate should be increased to at least the state’s minimum wage.
  • All households to be given right to 200 days of work per year in MGNREGA.
  • All MGNREGA workers to be paid within 15 days under any circumstances.

Hunger deaths in Jharkhand (2015-18)

Name & Age Block & District Date of death Details
Indradeo Mali, 40 yrs (m) Hazaribagh, Jharkhand December 2016 Dalit; No food cooked in house since three days before death. Family did not get ration for two months preceding death.
Santoshi Kumari, 11 years (f)* Simdega, Jharkhand 28 September, 2017 Dalit; Santoshi’s family was denied ration for six months preceding her death. Its ration card was deleted as it was not linked with an Aadhaar.
Baijnath Ravidas, 40 yrs (m) Jharia, Dhanbad, Jharkhand 21 October, 2017 Dalit; rickshaw puller, long term deprivation; had applied for PDS ration card many times, but did not get it. Family got ration card after his death, his wife awaits widow pension
Ruplal Marandi, 60 yrs (m)* Deoghar, Jharkhand 23 October, 2017 Adivasi; Ruplal’s family was denied its ration for two months as it could not prove its identity through ABBA.
Lalita Kunwar, 45 yrs (f) Garhwa, Jharkhand October 2017 Adivasi; Lalita’s family was denied ration for six months preceding her death.
Premani Kunwar, 64 yrs (f)* Garhwa, Jharkhand 1 December 2017 OBC; After Sep 2017, Premani’s social security pension was redirected to someone else’s bank account linked with her Aadhaar. She did not receive her ration in Nov 2017 even though she successfully authenticated herself.
Etwariya Devi, 67 yrs (f)* Garhwa, Jharkhand 25 December 2017 OBC; Etwariya’s family was denied its ration due to ABBA failure. In Dec 2017 she did not receive her pension, allegedly due to authentication failure.
Budhni Soren, 40 yrs (f)* Giridih, Jharkhand 13 January 2018 Adivasi; Budhni was not issued a ration card (possibly as she did not have Aadhaar). She was not issued a widow pension.
Lukhi Murmu, 30 yrs (f)* Pakur, Jharkhand 23 January, 2018 Adivasi; Lukhi’s family was denied ration since Oct 2017 due to ABBA failure.
Sarthi Mahtain, age unclear (f) Dhanbad, Jharkhand 29 April, 2018 Sarthi was denied her ration and pension as she could not go to the ration shop or bank for ABBA due to illness.
Savitri Devi Mahto, 55 yrs (f)* Giridih, Jharkhand 2 June, 2018 OBC; Savitri’s family was not issued a ration card. She did not receive her pension as her account was not linked with Aadhaar.
Mina Musahar, 45 yrs (f) Chatra, Jharkhand 4 June, 2018 Dalit; Neither Mina nor her son’s family was not issued a AAY ration card.
Chintaman Malhar, 40 yrs (m)* Ramgarh, Jharkhand 14 June, 2018 Musahar (Dalit); Chintaman’s family was not issued a ration card. The entire village was also deprived of rations, pensions and other basic entitlements.
Lalji Mahto, 70 yrs (m) Jamtara, Jharkhand 10 July, 2018 OBC; He did not receive his pension for the past three months
Rajendra Birhor, 39 yrs (m)* Ramgarh, Jharkhand 24 July, 2018 Adivasi; Rajendra’s family was not issued a ration card. It also did not get social security pension entitled to particularly vulnerable tribes. Died of destitution.
Chamtu Sabar, 45 yrs (m) Dhalbhumgarh, East Singhbhum 16 September, 2018 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (Adivasi), newspaper report states that there was no food in the house for the 4-5 days before he died. Entitled to Antyodaya card (as PVTG) but did not have one. Suffered from TB.

*Aadhaar-related issues played a role in these hunger deaths

Right to food campaign, Jharkhand

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